This past Saturday I read a reflection by the Franciscan Richard Rohr. He was talking about the lack of time that we so often confront in our lives. He comments that our lives are consumed by anxiety, about what we might lose or what we might not get. He quotes Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “Why are you so anxious? Why do you run after things like the pagans do? What shall I eat? What shall I wear? You are not to worry about tomorrow. Each day will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:31, 34). * How difficult it is to trust that all will be well, when it seems that “all being well” depends on working longer hours, making sure all kids are in the best position to succeed, and making sure that we have all the stuff that will make our life comfortable and give us more “time.” This last is the great delusion, isn’t it?
Consider all the time-saving devices that have come on the market, promising to free us up from work so that we could spend more time with our families. The smartphone is a wonderful contemporary example of such a time-saving device. It has all our contacts in it; we can connect to the internet to find a restaurant; we have all our pictures in it; we can edit document, create documents, send emails. This little device makes it possible for us to do multiple tasks in very short order. What do we get with the device? We get more time. What do we do with the time, we fill it with more things that “need” to be done.
We are in the midst of the craziness of the Christmas season, a cultural phenomenon that has poured over to influence all those traditions, at least in this country, that don’t the religious meaning of the holiday. Our time is filled on the computer, looking for just the right present. Our we rush to the malls to joins the hundreds and thousands of other shoppers, eager to get the present that will be just right for a child, a partner, a parent. We rush to get holiday cards out. We rush to get the holiday lights up on our house, pushing that to the day after Thanksgiving, if not before! The stores start the Christmas push in early November, if not late October. Time is mushed, and filled to capacity with all the things we “need” to get accomplished in order to what? Have still more stuff and things that need to be done!
When I find myself caught up in this frenzy, I remind myself that winter is approaching. The earth, at least in our hemisphere, teaches us every year about slowing down, about taking a rest, about recognizing what we really “need.” The gardens at CFET have been prepped for the winter. Our bees have begun their winter routine. Our fruit trees have been pruned and are deep into their dormant mode. The animals that live in our soil, have gone deeper, to find warmth and to rest until the dawning of spring. The earth is teaching us that what we “need” is not more stuff, more activities, more rushing around. We need to slow down. I need to slow down. I need to remember that all will be well, because God has promised to be present, has promised that our true needs will be filled. The anxious are under the illusion that all depends on their actions, their energy, their ideas. All depends on the loving and creative God that has blessed us with all that is around us: friends, family, a beautiful creation.
Christians around the world are celebrating the season of Advent in these days. It is a season of anticipation, of waiting, of patience, of hope. The temptation is to imagine that by our actions we can shape what is to come into something we think we “need.” That is a mistake. What God has in store for us is beyond our understanding! What we hope for, what we anticipate, is beyond our capacity to make happen. But what we know, as Isaiah prophesied so many years ago, is that what comes will be like a “banquet” at which all are welcome and at which everyone’s needs are met.** Why be anxious, when God has promised that all will be well?
My prayer and hop for myself and for you this December is that we have the time to be quiet, to let go of the “rush,” and, like nature around us, allow ourselves to burrow deeper into ourselves, to allow ourselves to be refreshed and ready when the newness of spring arrives.
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President, Board of Trustees
*Richard Rohr,“Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent,” Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 43.
**Cf. Isaiah 25:6.